Google is planning an ambitious new expansion of its Silicon Valley headquarters, including movable buildings and structures that trade windows and roofs for translucent canopies.
The tech giant today detailed its plans to drastically "rethink" its main campus in Mountain View, Calif., where it's been based for 15 years. It's the first time the company will design and build its offices from scratch. The master plan is a collaboration between Bjarke Ingels, a Danish architect with a reputation for wild designs, and Thomas Heatherwick, a London designer known for even wilder bridges.
The campus will have "lightweight block-like structures which can be moved around easily," the company says. In theory, a section housing a team could be picked up and moved elsewhere on the campus depending on what other teams it is working with. Translucent canopies will cover each site, allowing plenty of natural light. The canopies, Google says, will also liberate the buildings from "traditional architectural limitations like walls, windows and roofs."
Google, which has more than 50,000 employees, is looking for new ways to attract engineers and retain staff as it expands its product lineup beyond its core search business. The company recorded $3.55 billion in capital expenditures in the fourth quarter, partly driven by investments in real estate. As the company sees it, the new headquarters will also benefit the local community. The plan includes bike paths and retail opportunities for local businesses such as restaurants, cafes, and shops under the canopies.
"As we’ve inhabited a variety of workplaces—including a garage in Menlo Park, a farmhouse in Denmark and an entire New York city block—we’ve learned something about what makes an office space great," the company writes. "And we’re excited to put that into practice, starting here at our home in Mountain View." Here's a quick guide to what Google plans to build:
The untraditional roofs blur the distinction between inside and out.
The canopy lifts up to allow the public "Green Loop"—a circuit for bikes and pedestrians—to travel through the building. Cafes and shops will be on the lower levels.
Google's employees will be able to work outdoors, while the public can play in the park or volunteer to work at the community gardens.
The Public Plaza
A solar canopy will generate energy, as well as protect bikers from the rain.
Consolidated parking will be located below the building. In lieu of outdoor parking lots, the plan calls for revitalizing native ecosystems, including wetlands.
A Reconfigurable Building
Inside the proposed Charleston South structure, the building segments function like furniture that can be rearranged.
Bjarke Ingels is speaking at Bloomberg Businessweek Design 2015.